Hoeben, Bernasco and Pauwels discuss the space-time budget method. This method aims at retrospectively recording on an hour-by-hour basis the whereabouts and activities of respondents, including crime and victimization. The method offers a number of advantages over existing methods for data-collection on crime and victimization such as the possibility of studying situational causes of crime or victimization, possibly in combination with individual lifestyles, routine activities and similar theoretical concepts. Furthermore, the space-time budget method offers the possibility of collecting information on spatial location, which enables the study of a respondent's whereabouts, going beyond the traditional focus of ecological criminological studies on residential neighborhoods. Finally, the collected spatial information on the location of individuals can be combined with data on neighborhood characteristics from other sources, which enables the empirical testing of a variety of ecological criminological theories.
The contribution of Gerritsen focuses on the possibilities offered by agent-based modeling, a technique borrowed from the domain of Artificial Intelligence. Agent-based modeling (ABM) is a computational method that enables a researcher to create, analyse and experiment with models composed of agents that interact within a computational environment. Gerritsen explains how modeling and simulation techniques may help gain more insight into (informal) criminological theories without having to experiment with these phenomena in the real world. For example, to study the effect of bystander presence on norm violation, an ‘artificial neighborhood’ can be developed that is inhabited by 'virtual aggressors and victims’, and by manipulating the agents’ parameters different hypothetical scenarios may be explored. This enables criminologists to investigate complex processes in a relatively fast and cheap manner.
Since the pioneering early studies of the 1990s hinted at its promise as a method for social scientific research, Virtual Reality (VR) technology is increasingly used as a research tool by social scientists from various disciplines such as psychology and sociology. Given recent developments that have greatly enhanced the realism, reduced costs, and increased possibilities for application, it seems well on its way to become an established method in the social sciences. In their contribution Van Gelder, Luciano and Otte explore the potential of VR as a tool for research in criminology. Their article offers a description of how virtual reality has been used in social scientific research before discussing the potential it holds for criminology. By way of illustration, the authors describe a recent case study that has used immersive virtual reality for theory testing, which gives an idea of the unique possibilities of VR for studying crime.
Cornet also draws from criminology's sister disciplines in her article on neurobiological measurements observing that while the literature on the relationship between neurobiological factors and antisocial behavior has accumulated in recent years, the use of neurobiological measurements does not yet play a central role in criminological research. One of the underlying reasons Cornet identifies is the idea among criminologists that it is complicated to use these techniques compared to sociological, psychological and behavioral instruments. This article aims to provide an overview of the most commonly used neurobiological measurements, their added value and, importantly, how they can be relatively easily implemented in criminological research.
Vandeviver explains the possibilities and merits of online mapping applications such as Google Maps and Google Street View. While these technologies have evoked concern from law enforcement agencies that offenders could exploit them, Vandeviver notes that for criminologists they also open up several new perspectives to conduct research. Elaborating on results from prior studies in related fields and personal research experience, three potential uses of Google Maps and Google Street View in criminological research are explored and discussed. In particular, this article deals with how these online mapping applications can generate new research questions, how they allow revisiting and re-assessing established theories in criminology and common research practices, and how they should be considered an essential part of the methodological toolkit of criminologists.
Lemieux, also taking a spatial approach, describes how digital cameras with integrated GPS units can be used to collect useful data for criminological purposes observing that while visual observations have traditionally been an important method of criminological research, when combined with spatial data, such observations become a particularly useful way to describe how crime and disorder are distributed. Lemieux describes the utility and ease of using geo-tagged photographs and GPS tracks for monitoring illegal activity in urban and rural settings presenting case studies from Uganda and Amsterdam.
Vander Laenen discusses a method of qualitative criminological research, the Nominal Group Technique (NGT), which is not necessarily innovative by and of itself, but which has hardly been applied in criminology. The NGT is a highly structured technique with characteristics of an individual survey and a focus group. However its structure limits the influence of the researcher and of group dynamics and guarantees equal participation to all group members and equal influence of (conflicting) values and ideas. The NGT forms an ideal technique for gathering and prioritizing ideas and for innovative solution planning. Furthermore, despite the structure of the procedure, the technique can be modified and easily be applied in a mixed-methods research design. By means of an example, Vande Laenen reports on the use of the NGT in a study on the needs assessment of drug (prevention) policy.
In the final contribution to this special issue on innovative methods of data collection in criminology, De Bondt suggests solutions for doing cross-border criminal policy research and the confusion in wording and interpretation that emerge when comparing different legal systems. Correctly interpreting foreign information and using it as a valid source to substantiate analyses on where, when and why crime occurs and/or how to improve the fight against crime, often requires the expertise of people that are very familiar with a certain legal system. Based on a literature review and a number of successful experiences with the method in past research projects, the strengths and weaknesses of working with (predominantly) multiple choice based questionnaires sent to a single point of contact in each of the EU member states is elaborated upon.